Spain

Photography and Prostitutes (but not photography of prostitutes)

Along the Carretera de Collblanc, in an area of L’Hospitalet not too far from Camp Nou, lies both an electrical substation and abandoned land with buildings. There is nowhere to park along the Carretera, but running almost parallel to it is Avinguda d’Manuel Azaña. This road has construction and empty land and is therefore used for the ever-elusive parking. I became acquainted with it not because I was searching for parking, but because I was searching for new and faster ways to get home. In the daytime this road is harmless. At night, it is a place where prostitutes solicit their wares. (It doesn’t seem the place for your higher-end prostitute. Too dark.)

My main goal was to take a photo of this building, from Carretera de Collblanc, but my parking spot on Av d’Manuel Azaña allowed me to get a view of the other side.

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There’s a hole in the fence on this side that allows you to take a well-worn path down to some make-shift parking off of Collblanc.

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Having taken the shortcut, I was then able to snap a photo of the original side that had sparked my interest.

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And take a shot of the impressive gate.

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Down the road is this building:

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Avinguda d’Albert Bastardas

Yesterday’s adventure took me to some of my old haunts. I went looking to take pictures of things I had seen in my commute but had never taken the time to come back to when I could actually stop for the photos.

 

Last year, on my drive home from practice, I often took a road running behind the Real Polo Club de Barcelona. It was appealing for both it’s lack of stoplights and for its interesting scenery:

 

Aigües de Barcelona is the company in charge of water distribution in Barcelona and other nearby municipalities. In the background you can see the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos, where the visiting footballers stay.

Aigües de Barcelona is the company in charge of water distribution in Barcelona and other nearby municipalities. In the background you can see the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos, where the visiting footballers stay.

This road continues and runs below the Carretera de Collblanc, where you can pass through a tunnel made of stone but now mostly covered in modern metal and concrete.

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Old bridge/new bridge

On the way down to the bridge, after the Aigües, is a volleyball court, here used to play a football-volleyball hybrid.

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Futvolei

And from below, you can see some of the new construction along the Carretera de Collblanc:

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Spikes

 

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Language Learning: Part I

Native Spanish speakers who are learning English often have problems with the different pronunciations of these words. They can be confused in both listening and speaking. However, some are likely to cause a bigger problem than others. I’ve tried to reassure my friends that, as they already have a bit of an accent, we will understand what they mean to say.

A Short List:

  • Kitchen and Chicken
  • Sheet and Shit
  • Beach and Bitch
  • Wander and Wonder
  • Bear, Bird, Beer, and Beard.
    • This one even has a game associated with it. Each word has a corresponding hand motion. The speaker has to match the name with his or her partner’s hand motion. The one for Bear is as if you had a bear paw and were batting something. The one for Bird is as if you were flying. The one for Beer is as if you were drinking a beer. And the one for Beard is as if you are stroking your beard. Try it yourself!
  • When –ed is at the end of words, it is sometimes pronounced as with the e as its own syllable when we would drop it and directly say the d.
  • I’ve also noticed confusion in the meanings of the words earn and win. In Spanish, they are both ganar. Sometimes those learning English will say, “How much money do you win (at your job)?”
  • Another common problem is using the word to make for situations that need to do or to have. In Spanish, the verb is often just hacer, which translates as to make. Some common sentences are, “Let’s make a party!” or “Let’s make yoga!”
    (The correct version being, “Let’s have a party!” and “Let’s do yoga!”)
    The worst part about this one is that sometimes I catch myself saying it the wrong way too because I’m trying to match the speaker’s level of English!
Categories: Barcelona, Language | 1 Comment

Some Differences Between Spain and the US: Part I

Communication/Media

In Spain:

  • Facebook is used more often to communicate with friends
  • This is probably due to the fact that unlimited texts plans are not common
  • People use many more !!!! and ??? when texting or writing on Facebook walls
  • Cell phone companies do not give upgrades every two years or with the signing of a new contact. Buying a new phone is a big deal
  • I usually get news headlines through Facebook’s news feed and my friend’s statuses. Such things as, finding out if the Chargers won, what celebrity has died recently, what the weather is like, etc.
  • News about celebrities is much less prevalent. I usually have no idea what is happening, unlike the US where I am inundated with information
  • The best time to talk to people at home is later in the evening, which can lead to very late nights
  • There are many locutorios where you can use the Internet, or make cheap international phone calls
  • Magazines are bought from newsstands, which are green and very easy to find
  • Movies, unless they are a blockbuster like Harry Potter, come out a few months later
  • There are many more films from other European countries
  • Films can be VOS (original language) or dubbed in Spanish
  • English books are not easily available and they are very expensive. They are bought from England (priced in the pound) then transferred to Europe and priced in the Euro, which increases the price. Then the Euro must be converted into dollars and the price is increased again. A Kindle comes in handy!
  • In order to exchange money through banks, checks are not written. You give the person your complete bank account number and the money is taken out or transferred in
  • It is necessary to carry change, as the 1 and 2 Euro coins are used often

Look for future editions on grocery shopping, my apartment, training and more.

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A Mystery Solved

I was driving to practice a few weeks ago and heard this song. I found it intriguing, as the girl kept repeating, spoken-word style, ‘What the Fuck.’ Curiously, it was uncensored, which maybe isn’t that unusual outside of the US. My interest was piqued when she started talking about being in Spain and partying, etc. This girl was explaining part of my life here! I didn’t think to Shazam it (and likely my phone was in the trunk anyway). All I could remember is that she said, ‘what the fuck,’ and talked about Spain. So I tried to find it on google. But of all the lines of a song to remember when you don’t know it’s title, I think ‘What the Fuck’ might only be behind ‘I Love You’ as the worst lyric of all time.

I don’t know how I finally accomplished it. (Well, I do. A youtube search of “what the fuck,” Spain, song, party). Still, not an easy mystery to solve.

Check out why this song caught my attention:

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Another Taste of Spanish Culture

The common perception of European music by Americans is that it is some sort of bad techno/house music. However, a lot of the songs are American imports, though not often the heavy-duty rap. The rest are from England or a variety of other European countries (i.e. David Guetta from France). In fact, I actually quite enjoy the “Euro” music when I am over here. It is danceable, but doesn’t feel like it requires full-on dirty hip-hop dancing. The same songs are repeated here ad nauseum, just as in the United States, yet somehow it takes songs even longer here to be pulled from the rotation. For example: The Black Eyed Peas’ I’ve Gotta a Feeling still draws cheers whenever it comes on in a club. (Why? I don’t know). The radio station in Barcelona dedicated to this music is RadioFlaixbac (pronounced Radio Flash Back). Among the people I know, this is the most popular radio station. You can check the top 30 songs on the website (careful: it’s in Catalan!).

For your listening/viewing pleasure, here are two more recent Euro songs that are popular right now:

Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan

 

 Hello by Martin Solveig and Dragonette

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Halloween, for the Rest of the World

One of the many Sitges costumes

On Sunday, I travelled by train to Sitges, a small beach town just south of Barcelona. This weekend was Carnaval and for that Sitges is the place to be. The best thing I can liken it to is Halloween in West Hollywood.

Carnaval is a much bigger holiday in Spain than Halloween. Although people know what Halloween is, most people don’t celebrate it. When I went out for Halloween, I’d say only one in ten people were dressed in costume. Carnaval, on the other hand, feels much more like Halloween in elementary school, where everyone is dressed as something, including the adults. It was fun to walk around this weekend, as I saw a great variety of costumes.

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A Sampling of Spanish Culture

Here is an advertisement that I often see when watching TV in Spain. Imagine not knowing ahead of time that this is an IKEA ad. Enjoy.

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Man It Was Cold!

            As I was checking my email on my yahoo account on Monday, a news headline popped up, like this one, that said there had been a bombing Moscow’s Domodedevo airport. Of course, all bombings have a chilling effect, but for me this one was more personal. I have been fortunate enough to have never been near a bombing, but this particular one caught my attention as I had flown through Moscow twice last year. What were the chances that I had been there?

        Our second quarterfinal game for the LEN cup was being played in Khanty-Mansiysk. The first round was at home, so for the second game we travelled to the home of our competition: Siberia, Russia. This is crazy enough in itself. How many people go to Siberia willingly? And more importantly, how many Americans go to Siberia? Not only was I getting the chance to travel to a such a foreign and inhospitable place, one that few American ever have the chance to experience, it was going to be in the dead of winter. To play water polo. In a pool.

Categories: Barcelona, Current events, Travel, Water Polo | Leave a comment

Columbus Day

Columbus Day was celebrated last month in both Spain and the United States, so it seemed like a good time to talk about some of the similarities and differences between these two different cultures that I am currently a part of.

I was surprised that both Spain and the US celebrate the same holiday. This possibility had never occurred to me. Well, of course, holidays like Christmas and Easter are shared across borders as Christianity is found around the world. But how strange it is that two other countries share a national holiday and that it’s even celebrated at the same time!? And what are the odds that I’m a part of both? I’ve gotten used to celebrating country specific holidays, such as Italy’s end of fascism, Spain’s day of the constitution, and the US’s day of independence – holidays that wouldn’t make sense to celebrate in any other country. It wasn’t until I remembered who sent Columbus on his fateful voyage that I connected the dots. It is clear why the US would honor the person who ‘found’ the country, but it never occurred to me that Spain would also honor Columbus. Spain doesn’t even hold any territories in the Americas anymore! Of course, once I thought about it, it is only right that Spain would venerate the person who started the movement that led Spain to have the largest empire at that time.

There are differences between how holidays are celebrated. In Spain, Columbus Day includes events that celebrate the glory of Spain. There is a parade of the army after which the King greets them. From what I have been told by my Catalan roommate, however, is that most people actually dislike this practice. Only the most patriotic citizens are in favor of it. She says that patriotic displays remind most people of the dictatorship of Franco. Since the Catalans were particularly oppressed, they are especially against this patriotism. A second complaint is typical to all citizens everywhere: the parade costs too much money for little return!

In the US, we always observe Columbus Day on a Monday and often now the holiday is not even observed. Instead everyone works as usual. In Spain, Columbus Day is always celebrated on October 12th. Since it falls on a Tuesday this year, Monday is also a de-facto holiday. On Tuesday, almost everything is closed, very similar to Sundays. Monday, because it only links the holiday to the weekend and is not a holiday itself, is not observed in the same manner. Most people don’t have work or school. However, some people work and more stores will be open. The same phenomenon is found when Columbus Day falls on a Thursday; Friday will become a de-facto holiday. Unfortunately, as the holiday falls on a Wednesday next year, the only day off the Spaniards will get is Wednesday.

This is a very different mentality than the US. Since I have been here, we have already celebrated three holidays. The first was La Mercé, which is the major festival of Barcelona. There were so many activities I couldn’t attend them all. There were the procession of the giants (Gigantes), the fire run (Correfoc), the human towers (Castellers), live music, performances, etc. Columbus Day (Hispanidad) was the second holiday, and All Saints Day was the third. To me it seems that the Spanish take any excuse to have a holiday that they can!

Postscript:

A roommate in Barcelona from last May shared this newspaper article with me. Basically, it says that Columbus had stayed in the same apartment as we lived in! I’m sure many people have claimed this, but this story has the added benefit of being written by a historian.

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